25 Days of Christmas: New Traditions and the White Elephant with Shannon Mackay

Today, we have Shannon Mackay, author of the upcoming Raenara Bradley series, visiting with us! Welcome Shannon!

New Traditions and the White Elephant

Some traditions are from our childhood, and some are made out of accident (like when our favorite restaurant closes early and we have to go somewhere else) or necessity.

My favorite new tradition was started two Christmasses ago, and I look forward to it the most this year. Its unfortunate that this tradition started because of ecoconomic downturn. My dad lost his job soon after my step-mom quit hers to go back to school, and they got married. My husband and I had a second child, and I quit my job to stay home because daycare expenses would have been more than my monthly paycheck. Its a little needless to say that Christmasses since then have been strained.

My step-mom’s brother (Is there such a thing as a step-uncle?) loves Christmas. Like, he loves, Loves, LOVES Christmas and he hated the idea that no one was able to afford presents to give like we had done in past years, plus my family was officially IN the family now, and that meant more kids, and more people to buy for.

This man is a creative genius and is constantly thinking of different ways to do something entertaining. He currently has old broken dolls dressed up in kids clothing sledding and skiing down a ramp from the roof of his house as his Christmas display. Instead of doing a Secret Santa, or a pick a name, or spend less than such and such amount, he thought of something so much more fun. He decided that we should do a White Elephant Christmas. Each year, we bring something that we no longer care for but is still in good shape all wrapped up so no one can see what it is. Then we draw numbers from a hat and the first person picks whichever package they want and unwraps it. Then the next person either picks a new present and unwraps it, or takes what the first person chose. If they do that, then the first person picks something new, and the third person goes. We continue like this until everyone has something, and then the first person gets one last chance to trade what they have with something else because they’re the only person who didn’t get the swap option. It really pays to draw the number one!

Last year, my husband and I added a light up cottage to our ceramic village from the White Elephant Christmas. My dad got another bird house for his collection (complete with a fake ‘dead bird’ in the bottom) and my son even joined in the usually all adult event and auctioned off two of his Hot Wheels for five bucks (the kids still get a regular Christmas). 

I can’t even choose which present was the funniest, though. One year we had the entire inside of a gift duct taped with the sticky side up and a bazillion pennies stuck to it, along with a piggy bank; there was a tailgater’s gift basket complete with a six pack of beer, six pack of batteries, six pack of frozen buffalo wings, and a six pack of ketchup (don’t ask). The point of the White Elephant isn’t to save money, even though that was the catalyst to starting this tradition, but its to have fun and be creative with your giving.

At first, I hated this tradition. It felt more like a reminder of how much we don’t have than of being able to give. Its so much fun though, that I don’t care anymore. I enjoy watching people trade the same gift over and over and scouring my house for something that I don’t love or need and can give it to somebody who will want it. I have no idea what I’m going to give this year, but there’s still a little time and I’m sure I can find something. My daughter does have a few pairs of shoes that she’s outgrown…they could make the toes of those sledding dolls nice and toasty…hmm.


  1. We have done this so many times before but your idea of using recycled gifts instead of purchased inexpensive gifts is great. It does make for a great party with this type of gift giving. Everyone inspects the packages carefully and its a riot to see which gifts become the most "popular". Last year at our party, a Santa Hat that lit up, was the item to get. We had a ball. I ended up with a great pair of slippers that fit. Talk about winning. Fun was had by all. Therefore don't feel bad Shannon, this tradition has been around for a long time and is a great money saver. Although I would prefer not to receive frozen food to avoid getting ill! lolMerry Christmas and good luck in this Christmas' White Elephant's celebration!

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